This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.



What is occurring in Kosovo is impermissible. Should any government or alliance act as a "world government" or international police agency to enforce certain values? That was the topic of a debate organized by the Center for European and Russian Studies and UCLA's External Affairs department and held at the James West Alumni Center on April 22. The 270 participants reacted emotionally to the panelists' views. While their views differed, most of the panelists agreed in denouncing the war.

Launching an undeclared war is a clear violation of the U.N. Charter and creates a dangerous precedent. The West is fighting for the prestige of NATO. What about the prestige and mission of the United Nations in a post-Cold War world order?

NATO's air war has dramatically escalated the human tragedy, recklessly killing innocent people and destroying infrastructure, causing tremendous suffering for the population.

Moreover, the West's humanitarianism has been highly selective. While the Western powers have chased and punished "criminals" in one country, in other countries they have cooperated with those who could also be deemed "criminals." Let me mention only one of numerous examples. While launching a war to help the Kosovo Liberation Army realize the right to self-determination, the West assisted in capturing the leader of the "terrorist" or "freedom-fighter" Kurds. Kurds and Albanians are demanding exactly the same right, so why are they treated differently? Because Turkey is a NATO ally.

The war in Kosovo reflects a shocking lack of understanding of Central and Eastern Europe. Trying to force a solution without consideration for the complexities of this "mixed population belt" is a huge mistake. Kosovo does not stand alone; 40% of Serbs live outside Serbia. When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1991, the Serbs demanded the same right for self-determination as the Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians and now Albanians. The West rejected that demand, then looked the other way when nearly 200,000 Serbs were "cleansed" from Croatia.

And what kind of message is this "humanitarian intervention" for the other oppressed minorities of Central and Eastern Europe who also lack autonomy? What about the Albanian minority in Macedonia, where they represent 30% of the population? Or the 2 million Hungarians in Romania? And perhaps most important, the 25 million Russians outside Russia? To find a solution from the air in Yugoslavia is exceedingly difficult. However, it is extremely easy to destabilize a fragile Macedonia and a potentially explosive Central and Eastern Europe.

What is needed is a broad, internationally organized and concrete settlement, guaranteeing equal rights to all Yugoslavia's ethnic minorities, combined with Western aid and the development of a long-term European Union plan to gradually integrate the area into borderless alliance. This is the only way to heal the deep wounds and create a stable, long-term solution in the Balkans.

Media Contact